Many adults actively seek methods to lower blood pressure naturally. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious epidemic in the United States, affecting roughly one out of three adults. Left untreated, hypertension frequently leads to serious cardiovascular disturbances including heart attack and stroke--which, together, form the leading cause of death in the United States.
Hypertension is far too serious to leave untreated. Often known as a "silent killer," high blood pressure often presents with few or no symptoms until it escalates to cause life-threatening complications, so people with hypertension must seek effective treatment immediately upon diagnosis. Natural treatment options, used under the guidance of a qualified health care provider, can help to alleviate hypertension and reduce the risk of complications.
Here are methods that have been used to try to lower blood pressure naturally, to various degrees of efficacy.
DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a highly effective natural intervention for high blood pressure. The DASH diet rivals antihypertensive drugs in its efficacy, and surpasses it in safety. According to Mayo Clinic, DASH reduces blood pressure in as few as two weeks, lowering it over time by as many as 14 points. In addition to helping to lower blood pressure naturally, DASH diets can also reduce your risk of obesity, cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.
While an average American diet contains roughly 3,500 mg of sodium per day, the DASH diet restricts this intake to a maximum of 2,300 mg (or, in a more strict version, 1,500 mg). DASH dieters must eat a diet comprised predominantly of whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits. Only lean animal products are allowed in the DASH diet, at a rate of no more than six servings per day. The DASH diet contains very little fat, caffeine, alcohol or processed sugar.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, more than 95% of hypertension cases are "primary" hypertension, meaning that they have no obvious, specific underlying cause. However, several factors contribute to increases in a person's blood pressure. Scientists have identified a strong link between obesity and high blood pressure, so it is critical to address this risk factor effectively.
An active lifestyle can help to reduce body fat, thereby decreasing your risk for hypertension. Studies have consistently revealed that regular exercise can reduce hypertension risk by as much as 70%, compared to people who lead sedentary lifestyles. Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes to keep your blood pressure healthy and to improve your overall health.
L-arginine is an amino acid, or a chemical building block of protein. Found in natural foods including red meat, poultry, fish, and milk, L-arginine acts as a precursor to the compound nitric oxide. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, reducing the amount of pressure in veins and arteries. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a deficiency in nitric oxide may contribute to the onset of hypertension.
Foods and supplements containing L-arginine may act as effective natural treatments for high blood pressure, but evidence is somewhat mixed. According to the National Institutes of Health, "There is some evidence that taking L-arginine can slightly lower blood pressure in healthy people and in people with type 2 diabetes who have mild high blood pressure." Although generally safe, L-arginine can have some side effects. Consult your health care provider about the use of L-arginine as a supplement.
Used for millennia as both a food and medicine, garlic is a pungent plant with powerful medicinal properties. The National Institutes of Health regards garlic as "possibly effective" as a treatment for hypertension, noting that studies have found blood pressure reductions of 7 - 8 % among people using garlic extracts. Garlic included in diet may also help to reduce the risk of related cardiovascular conditions, such as high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Unfortunately, no treatment is completely free of risk, especially to people with multiple medical conditions. Before self-treating any medical condition, always consult your primary health care provider to discuss the benefits, risks and expectations associated with any natural treatment.
Reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH